did you tell him? nope. not yet. “Sorry Roger, I had to check that. It was Evelyn”. Yeah, no problem bro.
Roger is one of my best friends, more like a brother. On this particular Saturday night, we were out bar-hopping while our wives were attending a wine pairing dinner at a local vineyard near Chadds Ford, Pa. It was supposed to be their ladies-night-out. Weeks earlier, while hanging around Roger and Gracia’s kitchen, the ladies brought up their plans. Really, you guys are doing a wine tasting without us, asked Roger? WTF? Henry what do you think? Ummm, yeah, WTF?, I said, sounding very surprised the ladies would even think about doing something like this without us. That’s B.S.! If we can’t go, then we’re doing our own thing. Right Henry? Yup, we’re doing our own thing, I said with some authority. So, what are we doing Henry? I don’t know, what about bar-hopping? That’s a great idea bro, let’s do it! Evelyn played her part well and shot me a sharp stare making sure Roger noticed. I shrugged my shoulders and made a face. Like, what else was I supposed to say? Roger suggested we do our thing the same night the ladies were doing theirs. This is perfect, I thought to myself. Roger didn’t know Gracia had coordinated the whole thing with me or that Evelyn was in on it too.
When Gracia first learned about the wine tasting, she called me to share an idea. For months, Gracia knew Evelyn and I were struggling with my coming out as gay. She had been incredibly supportive when Evelyn first shared the news with her, but she asked us to keep it from Roger. She wasn’t sure how he would handle it and needed time to think about the best way to do it. I was relieved to hear that. I wasn’t ready to share. But, when Gracia found out that Evelyn and I told our 9 year old daughter, she was afraid her daughter would learn the news from ours. If that happened, their daughter might share it with Roger. We all agreed that was not the way we wanted him to find out.
Gracia’s plan was simple. Evelyn and I would come over their place to hang out. She would casually bring up the wine tasting plan, hoping Roger might get his back up for being exlcuded (a wine tasting was the sort of thing we would always do as couples). If Roger suggested the guys do their own thing too, that would be my cue to plan a night alone with him. If not, I would suggest it anyway. Gracia felt it was important for me to tell Roger alone, without she or Evelyn being there. That way, he could feel comfortable asking me questions or just talk about it without anyone else around.
So, where should we go? Roger didn’t waste anytime. Caught off guard, I answerd quickly. “Uhh, let’s see. How about Manayunk?” Great! Manayunk it is!
Suggesting Manayunk wasn’t really sticking to Gracia’s plan to keep things simple. Manayunk is a neighborhood in Philly anchored by Main Street, a strip of restaurants and bars that are consistently packed on weekends. Most places there cater to recent college grads. Its dominant vibe is frat-boys not yet ready to leave college life behind. On weekends it’s not unusual to see packs of young drunk men walking all along Main being very loud. On the prowl, looking to score. Their arms all over each other, propping themselves up, stumbling from bar to bar (very attractive to the young ladies, I’m sure). I had it all figured out. I would meet Roger at one of the more upscale places in Manayunk. Even though surrounded by joints for twenty-somethings, there are a handful of places that draw an older crowd with pricier drinks and good food in a less rowdy setting. The plan was simple and easy. Until I had to do it.
That night, Roger agreed to meet at my place so we could head to Manayunk in one car. We headed to Coopers. They have a great selection of micro-brewed beers, good wine and top shelf liquour. I had rehearsed my speech over and over. I was ready. Still, on the way in I couldn’t help being distracted by replaying the main points in my head.
Coopers was packed. We made our way toward the bar and stood behind some couples that were having dinner. I offered to squeeze in and order. What are you having Roger, beer? Sure, why not? What are you having? I don’t know, I was thinking whiskey sour, with Knob Creek. Oh, nice. You know what, get me one of those too. Cool, okay. I handed Roger his drink and raised mine. Cheers bro. Cheers. So, how’s work, traveling alot? It’s alright, I said. Yeah, I’ve been on the road alot latetly, but it’s not that bad. What about you? It’s good, just working to get this big project wrapped up. Nice, I added. I could hear the couples seated in front of us and some guys at the end were being a bit loud, talking trash about the football game on T.V. Think the ladies are having a good time? Yeah, I’m sure. Dinner, wine, they’re alone. They better be having a good time!, I said. Hahaha, yeah right! We both started laughing. So, what else is going with you? Here we go, I thought to myself. This is your chance. I froze.
The arguments were already raging in my head. What else is going on you ask?! Gee Roger, not much. Hmmm, Let’s see. There is something. Here we were, surrounded by couples eating dinner and drinking wine, a bunch of loud dudes in one corner arguing college football, and games playing on several tv sets. Well, as a matter of fact, now that you’ve asked. My inner voice was taunting me. I asked you here to this bar so I could corner you and casually let you in on a bit of personal news. Over Roger’s shoulder, I could see a group of people lined up by the hostess trying to get seated. My stomach wasn’t feeling well and my right hand started trembling. What the fuck was I thinking bringing him here to Manayunk? I can’t tell him! Not here! The vibration in my pocket startled me. I immediately pulled my phone out and read the text.
did you tell him? I quickly typed a reply. nope. not yet. “Sorry Roger, I had to check that. It was Evelyn”. Yeah, no problem bro. Hey, I need to hit the men’s room, I said. I’ll be right back. Alright, I’ll keep an eye on your drink. I locked the door behind me and stared into the mirror. Fuck! I can’t do this. Anyway, I don’t need to. Yes, you do. Why?! It’s nobody’s business! Nobody cares and nobody wants to know. Wrong. You need to do this. You know you do. No I don’t! I grabbed my phone.
Ev, I can’t do this–What? Yes, you can! It’s okay. He’ll be fine.– No. Not tongiht.– Henry, you need to–It’s crowded, it doesn’t feel right, I’m nervous– Okay, go somewhere else– I don’t know, this is a bad idea.– It’s okay, you can do it. Wine dinner sucks, headed to Belrose, eating there. Meet us after you’ve told him. Text me when it’s done—This is a bad idea Ev—No, it’s not. Text me again later–Ok, not sure about this, ttyl.
I got myself together. Alright Henry, get back there and get this over with. Roger handed me my drink. Is everything okay? Yeah bro, everything is good. Guess what?, I said. Evelyn just texted again. The wine dinner sucks. They’re headed to Belrose and want to meet up there later. Really? Serves them right! I know right? I put my right hand in my pocket, hoping it would stop shaking. Let’s finish these up and grab one more somewhere else. We can meet up with them after that, I said. Okay, sounds good. We left Coopers and walked outside. I really couldn’ think where else to go so we walked on Main for a bit. We stepped in somewhere else. This time we ordered beer. I can’t remember what we talked about. After quickly chugging those down Roger was ready. Yo, let’s get going, I’d like to eat something, the kitchen at Belrose closes at 11. Okay, let me hit the men’s room again.
hey, leaving now, be there in 30 mins or so.—okay, well? did you?-nope. i haven’t said anything— What! You better tell him before you get here–okay, we’ll see. bye.
That 30 minute drive was the longest of my life. I know I must have seemed distracted, but if he suspected anything, Roger wasn’t showing it. As we pulled into the parkng lot at Belrose, I could hear my heart beat. It was almost 10:30. Roger started to get out. I had to do this. I grabbed his arm. Roger, wait. There’s something I need to tell you. He look startled. What? I wanted to tell you this in Manayunk. Actually, wanted to tell you for a while now. What is it bro? Now he looked worried. Roger, I’m gay. We both sat there. I stared, waiting for his reaction.
(To be continued next week)